When a woman from a PKU product company called me and asked if I would be interested in doing a research study in Orlando, it was really a no-brainer. Any excuse to get away from this hard winter we’ve been having in the Northeast! And when she told me that the study would end on Saturday afternoon at 3pm, I saw a golden opportunity to extend my stay and get my fix of Disney magic.
First, I had to do some planning. I was able to book my flight home for 8pm on Sunday, meaning I would have most of the day to spend at a Disney park. Then I had to recruit Chris to come with me. Always up for an adventure (and much more of a Disney fan now than he was before he met me!), he booked a flight down to meet me on Saturday night. Next we needed a place to stay. The hotel the company was putting me up in seemed lovely, but on the expensive side and not terribly close to Disney property. There were a bunch of Disney value resorts with available rooms, and I chose Pop Century because of its dedicated bus system (though I’ve never stayed at Disney’s three All-Star value resorts, I’ve heard they sometimes share buses which makes travel to the parks longer). Right along with the room reservation, I purchased two one day Magic Kingdom tickets, linked everything up in the Disney app, customized our Magic Bands (yellow for me, blue for Chris), and made some FastPass+ reservations. Since we were so close to our travel date, I wasn’t surprised that the new Mine Train rollercoaster was already all booked up. I grabbed two of my favorite rides, Thunder Mountain and Space Mountain, along with one Chris and I had never rode together, the Tomorrowland Indy Speedway. After that was done, we look into some restaurants and ended up booking an 11:30am lunch reservation at the Liberty Tree Tavern. The magic bands arrived about a week before the trip, and then we were all set to go!
After a very busy two days of PKU fun (and I say that sincerely- got to meet lots of great people and I love connecting with other PKUers!), I left the Wyndham at almost exactly 3pm. The taxi ride to Disney’s Pop Century Resort took less than 30 minutes. Upon arrival, the room was ready and waiting in the 1960s themed building. While the room was small, it was clean and cute and perfect for our quick little trip. There was even a Mickey head towel arrangement waiting to greet me. The lake view I requested had been granted. It was so pleasant to open the curtains and look out over the water to another adorable resort, called Art of Animation. I didn’t waste much time though, just letting myself get settled in before heading off to the bus stops. With Chris’s flight not landing until after 10pm, I had the whole evening to myself and planned to spend it at Downtown Disney.
Upon arrival, the place was abuzz with guests of all ages, coming and going and shopping and eating. I stopped into many shops, including the Christmas shop, the bath store called Basin, a jewelry store called Arribas, the art gallery, and the huge World of Disney store, taking stock of what was there but not buying anything just yet. As I passed by the waterside stage some young dancers caught my eye- clearly there was some kind of showcase going on. With no one to meet and nowhere to be, I settled into a seat with a nice vantage point and rather enjoyed the talents of the young performers. I watched five dances, most of them pretty jazzy with a lyrical number thrown in, before a big loud finale and a final bow.
As I made my way to the other side of Downtown Disney, I realized I was starving. There aren’t many quick service establishments at Downtown Disney, so I considered seeking out a restaurant with a bar and having dinner there- until I came across the Wolfgang Puck Café, which had a delicious menu posted right outside the door. And before I knew it, I was seated at a window table with a beautiful view over the water, sipping a white zinfandel and twirling spaghetti around my fork. Who knew that dinner for one could be so pleasant?
I had to backtrack through the entire area to get back to the resort buses, and on my way I went into stores I had browsed before and made quite a few purchases. Some holiday plushes and a beautiful bar of soap were some of the highlights. I was really on the lookout for a Baymax plush, but a cast member informed me that the entire property is sold out because “they are flying off the shelves faster than we can fill them”. I guess I wasn’t the only one who loved Big Hero 6! At any rate I was pleased with my purchases as I boarded the bus to Disney’s Contemporary Resort, where I planned to watch the fireworks from the observation deck. I found the deck fairly easily but was surprised to see that all of the available seats were covered with sweatshirts. So much for coming early to get a seat! I did find a great spot to stand along the railing, and I was very happy to have my fleece jacket with me to combat the heavy wind. The fireworks look fabulous from this angle, really unique. The two little girls standing by me were so in awe, they were almost as entertaining as the rest of the show. I very much enjoyed the show before heading back to Pop Century to meet Chris. Then it was off to bed to rest up for our one Disney day tomorrow!